“This only proves that the crafting of the new joint department circular is in the best interest of traders and importers of GM products and not of farmers, consumers and the general public.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Farmers, scientists and consumers decried what they describe as “railroading” of the process for the adoption of a new policy on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO).
The joint administrative order on the use of GMO was drafted by the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Interior and Local Government.
The draft order will replace the DA Administrative Order No. 8 (DA AO8), which has been nullified by the Supreme Court in its landmark ruling dated Dec. 8, 2015. In its decision, the high court temporarily stops any application for contained use, field-testing, propagation, commercialization and importation of GMO until a new administrative order (AO) is promulgated in accordance with the law.
Civil society groups, however, said that concerned government agencies only held “token consultations” in haste, essentially depriving the public of the right to meaningful participation.
Notice of consultation was sent out to stakeholders in Luzon a week before and only two working days for the regional consultations in the Visayas and Mindanao. The National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) did not provide a copy of the draft AO to groups critical of GMO.
Leonor Lava of Greenpeace Philippines said only reference documents were provided to her group before the public consultation. A copy of the draft circular on GMO was given on Feb. 3, only six days before the scheduled consultation yesterday, Feb. 9.
“Di pwedeng madalian. Di pwedeng i-compromise ang kaligtasan ng tao,” (This cannot be rushed. They must not compromise the safety of the public.) Lava said in a press conference also yesterday.
Pro-GMO firms have the upper hand
Dr. Chito Medina, national coordinator of Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), noted the “dominance” in numbers of known GMO promoters, including representatives from agrochemical corporations such as Monsanto and Syngenta.
Farmers were caught flatfooted, too.
Farmer Darius Gorango said, “Akala naming panalo na kami sa Korte Suprema. Ngayon may bagong AO na naman sa GMO. Napakabilis ng pangyayari.” (We thought we already won in the Supreme Court decision. Now there’s a new AO on GMO. Things happened so fast.)
In its position paper, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) or the Peasant Movement of the Philippines argued that the government is fast-tracking the joint order because import permits for specific genetically modified products are set to expire this year. Importation permit for genetically modified soya will expire by March.
“This only proves that the crafting of the new joint department circular is in the best interest of traders and importers of GM products and not of farmers, consumers and the general public,” the KMP said.
Reports indicate that the news circular will be signed by Feb. 23.
“It appears that in their haste to appease the private businesses and corporations, the government agencies missed the point of the SC decision which is to ensure the public’s safety against a potentially harmful technology…” MASIPAG said.
Speaking for the consumers, Ramon Padilla said consumers deserve clean, healthy and safe food.
Green Action PH, a network of organic advocates, demands the extension, expansion and improvement of the ongoing AO replacement process to ensure that substantive comments are provided and stakeholders’ meaning participation is guaranteed.